You could say running a ski slope is in Carolyn LaHart’s blood.
Her grandparents created the Maple Ski Ridge during the 1960s, and her father ran it for years. Now the single mother of two is following in their ski tracks.
LaHart, who has worked at the small ski area in various capacities for nearly a decade, is now running its operations, from the top of the lifts all the way down to the snow beneath them.
This season, LaHart has taken charge of grooming the slopes, maintaining the lifts and making snow on the ridge, making Maple Ski Ridge one of the few privately owned downhill skiing areas in the Northeast to have a woman heading its facility operations. While larger ski areas may have a woman doing one of the jobs LaHart has assumed, seldom do they have one in charge of all the mechanical functions.
“Not only does she do all of this, but she’s one of the owners,” said Kate Michener, LaHart’s cousin and the ski ridge’s marketing director.
Not that LaHart originally envisioned herself as a lift mechanic or a snow groomer or in any of the mechanical jobs she now fills at Maple Ski Ridge. In 1999, she graduated from SUNY-Plattsburgh with a degree in hotel and restaurant management.
When LaHart returned to the ski area after graduation, she helped almost exclusively in the kitchen end of the business. But her job duties began expanding as the ski area encountered difficulty finding a reliable mechanic to help oversee the snowmaking operation.
“It was really out of necessity,” LaHart said Tuesday, while on a break from preparing the ski area for its target opening in mid-December.
LaHart has since learned the mechanics of snowmaking, in addition to all of the know-how it takes to get Maple Ski Ridge up and running once cold weather arrives. She’s spent summers attending trade seminars and winters honing the skills she’s learned.
Her skill with the equipment allowed the ski area to forgo hiring a full-time snowmaker this season. LaHart said she’s more than ready for the challenge.
“I’m very confident,” she said.
Not that things will change much for LaHart, who some describe as a fixture at the ski area each winter. Normally, her day starts at dawn with about four hours of grooming the trails.
Afterward, she makes sure the chair lifts are in order and their auxiliary motors are functioning properly. When the ski area opens, she supervises the lift operators and is the go-to mechanic if anything breaks down.
But while many of the ski area’s workers wrap up work after the last lift of the day, LaHart often finds herself sticking around to crank up the snow jets. If conditions are ideal, she can pump roughly a foot of snow onto the mountain, giving it a good base to groom the next morning.
“She never goes home in the wintertime,” Michener said.
LaHart will have the benefit of an assistant to help her with the lifts. She’ll also have her sister, Marilyn Peterson, who runs the mountain’s business operations along with their cousin Karen Doyle.
Michener said the help doesn’t diminish LaHart’s wide range of roles at the ski area, or the fact that she’s one of the few women in her field. She said most larger ski areas would have three people doing what LaHart does by herself.
“And she sometimes even pops into the kitchen, too,” she said.
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Categories: Schenectady County